it’s apple season!

I made these cute cupcakes a few weeks ago, in celebration of the boys’ return to school. The cake itself was from a mix (Wilton-approved Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge) that I happened to have on hand. The icing was the Chocolate Frosting recipe from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. I don’t know what the problem was with my icing recipes this summer — maybe it was just the increased warmth — but they typically did not turn out well at all. I remember it being a fairly cool day, inside and out, and still the icing turned out soupy, about the consistency of warm pudding, even after refrigerating the icing for several hours before piping. It was such a disappointment. You can see that the icing in the photo doesn’t look very sharp; I took this picture after chilling the iced cupcakes overnight. After about 15 minutes out of the fridge, the piped icing lost much of its definition.

For the toppers, I tinted some fondant with Americolor soft gel pastes — Super Red for the apples, and Leaf Green for the leaves. I really love this product — the colors turn out bright without using a ton of gel paste; I much prefer them to Wilton icing gel colors. I also painted on a little straight gel paste for some highlighting on the apples so they wouldn’t look quite so flat. I love how they turned out!

gourmet’s pumpkin muffins (by way of smitten kitchen)

The boys’ high school is holding a mini college fair today and the parent board sent out a call for baked yummies for the visiting college reps, so I searched for a seasonally appropriate (and easy) muffin recipe.  The obvious choice was pumpkin. I didn’t feel like rolling the dice and risking the scorn of the dried fruit or nut averse, so this recipe totally fit the bill. Just pumpkin puree and spices in the batter and topped with cinnamon sugar… what’s not to love?

Pumpkin Muffins
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
8.5 oz. all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/3 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
8.75 oz. sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Cinnamon sugar:
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Place oven rack in the center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

Combine flour and baking powder in a medium bowl and whisk together. In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, 8.75 oz. sugar, salt, baking soda and spice until smooth, then whisk in flour mixture until just combined. Stir together ingredients for the cinnamon-sugar in a small bowl. Divide muffin batter evenly into the muffin liners, then sprinkle tops with the cinnamon sugar.

Ready to go in the oven! I used a scoop to divvy up the batter, but had to make two passes to use up all the batter.  In a perfect world, I’d have more scoops, in varying sizes.

Bake until golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.  Cool in pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then transfer the muffins to the rack and cool until warm or room temperature. Makes 12 muffins.